Judge blocks Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

The state has said it will appeal the ruling, which will likely go to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

A federal judge has ruled that Florida’s ban on gender-affirming care for transgender children is unconstitutional, invalidating state law and various other health regulation commissions restricting access to such treatments.

A bill passed by Florida’s Republican-controlled state legislature and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) last year banned all health care providers in the state from providing gender-affirming treatments to transgender youth. People who receive them often describe such therapies as life-saving, and several studies have shown that they reduce the risk of depression and suicide among transgender children.

The lawsuit against the bill was brought by interest groups and three Florida families with transgender children who were adversely affected by the ban. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle of the Northern District of Florida blocked enforcement of the law last summer, noting that it was likely unconstitutional and was passed in part because of lawmakers’ transphobia.

In his ruling Tuesday, Hinkle completely invalidated that law, as well as regulations based on it developed by Florida state health boards. In addition to restrictions on health care for transgender youth, Hinkle’s executive order invalidated regulations governing care for transgender adults because Florida officials stipulated that only physicians, not other health care providers, could provide gender-affirming treatment.

Said Hinkle in his order:

Florida has adopted statutes and rules that prohibit gender-affirming care for minors, even if it is medically necessary. The ban is unconstitutional.

Hinkle specifically noted that Florida’s ban only prohibits the use of these therapies to treat transgender patients – for example, cisgender children who need puberty-blocking drugs can benefit from such treatment, while transgender children cannot.

“The state of Florida may regulate as necessary, but it cannot categorically deny transgender people safe and effective treatment – ​​treatment with drugs routinely administered to others with the full consent of the state, unless the purpose is to support the patient’s transgender identity,” Hinkle wrote. in his order.

“Gender identity is real,” Hinkle continued, noting that “people whose gender identity does not align with their birth sex often suffer from gender dysphoria,” which can be treated through gender-affirming care.

Hinkle recognized that “for minors, this means evaluation and treatment by a multidisciplinary team,” which may include psychiatric therapy and, where appropriate, puberty-blocking medications and hormone therapy.

The judge noted that his order cannot correct bigoted sentiments, but it can correct bigoted government actions against transgender youth in Florida. “Opponents of transgenderism are, of course, free to express their beliefs. But they cannot discriminate against transgender people just because they are transgender,” Hinkle wrote.

He then predicted that over time, “discrimination against transgender people will diminish, as will racism and misogyny.”

DeSantis press secretary Jeremy Redfern issued a disgustingly transphobic statement in response to the ruling, vowing that the administration would “continue to fight to ensure that children are not chemically or physically mutilated in the name of radical new-age ‘gender ideology'” and falsely claiming that gender-affirming care for trans youth is a “fad.”

“We will appeal this ruling,” Redfern added.

It’s unclear what will happen when the appeal goes to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, as that body has issued conflicting rulings on transgender rights in recent months. In January, a three-judge panel of that court issued a ruling allowing Alabama’s gender-affirming care ban to go into effect, staying a previously issued lower court injunction on state law.

However, another panel of judges from the 11th Circuit Court issued a pro-transgender ruling in May, finding that exclusions of transgender people from health insurance for state and local employees violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

It is possible, though unlikely, that the appeals court will re-evaluate its previous ruling that the gender-affirming care ban could remain in place while the Florida case is appealed, depending on which judges are chosen to hear the appeal.

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